Tuesday, Sparks presented Union County Council with a “design requirements brief” he prepared for the construction and operation of “a proficient animal shelter” for the county. It addresses concerns about the existing shelter including under-staffing, antiquated facilities and the lack of hours devoted to the adoption of animals.
The proposal includes two sample floor plans for a new shelter ranging in size from 3,500 square feet to 5,500 square feet. Both facilities could house at least 20 dogs and 34 cats. While each animal would be housed separately, animals found to be compatible with each other could be housed together, increasing the number the facility could hold at a given time, Sparks said.
Separation would be an important aspect of the facility, which would incorporate five distinct physical areas for separating the animals according to their needs. This would include:
• An intake examination area where an animal’s health and temperament could be evaluated.
• A healthy hold area where healthy animals would be housed to await adoption.
• An adoption area can interact with adoptable animals.
• A quarantine area for animals who have been bitten or are sick or are aggressive and unpredictable.
• An isolation area for animals who arrive sick and/or with an infectious disease or who become sick while at the shelter.
The proposal also addresses other design issues such as flooring, roofing, kennels, HVAC, electrical fixtures and plumbing/drainage. Sparks also asked council to have the shelter’s policies and procedures posted for public viewing; make greater efforts to have animals adopted rather than euthanized; make more use of volunteers at the shelter; and start a building fund to finance the construction of a new shelter.
The proposal did not include any cost projections.
Council accepted copies of Sparks’ proposal for review.
The Union County Animal Shelter has been at the center of controversy since February when David Fant filed a complaint with the Union County Sheriff’s Office alleging inhumane treatment of animals.
An investigation by Sheriff David Taylor and Chief Deputy Perry Haney found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or mistreatment, but Taylor did recommend some changes in how the facility is operated. Among those recommendations was that more hours be devoted to the adoption of animals.
Sparks was one of several people who spoke to council’s Public Works, Roads, Bridges and County Property Committee in February. They asked that a new shelter be built of sufficient size and with sufficient staffing to increase the likelihood of animals being adopted rather than euthanized.
The county shelter is staffed by animal control officer Heather Sealey, who is assisted by a trustee assigned by the Union County Detention Center. Mrs. Sealey, however, is often away from the shelter picking up strays throughout the county, reducing the amount of time the shelter is open for adoption to at most one hour a day. If not adopted, an animal held at the shelter is euthanized after five days.
Mrs. Sealey described her ideal animal shelter as one with enough space to house animals for more than five days to give them a better chance of being adopted; kennels with proper drainage in each section allowing for the cleaning of one section at a time; a drop-off area; a separate area for puppies and/or puppies brought in with their mother; a filing room; a facility for cleaning the animals’ bowls; a larger area for cats; a storage facility for cat and dog food; a section for euthanasia; and an area allowing people to interact with animals while decide whether to adopt them.